In view of the unusually dry start to summer and forecast heatwave Defra has issued advice on caring for livestock in severe hot weather and drought.

Farmers are reminded to check on animals often, to ensure they are protected from extreme weather and that food and water are available at all times. Cooperating with neighbours may be necessary if supplies run short or access is difficult.

Officials from local councils and the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) monitor extreme weather situations. They work with the RSPCA, National Farmers’ Union (NFU), and other organisations who deal with farmers and animal welfare. In an emergency farmers should contact the APHA, the local council, the RSPCA or others for advice as they can also help you find ways to prevent or reduce the suffering of animals.

A plan should be in place for what to do if water supplies are interrupted. If supplies do fail alternative water sources must be identified, such as making arrangements with neighbours who have boreholes.

The greatest risk to animals from lack of water is dehydration. Young animals, housed animals on dry feed only, and lactating animals are at greatest risk.

To reduce the risk you can give your animals water from the following sources, listed in order of best to worst: drinking water, collected rain water, reservoirs. Farmers using alternative water sources are advised to discuss the risks with a vet and find out if the livestock need treatment.

If water is rationed owners need to meet the following daily minimum needs:

milking cows - 38 to 52 litres (l)

other cattle - 38 l

horses - 20 to 45 l

pigs - 4 to 11.5 l

sheep - 6 l

poultry (intensive) - 0.5 l

Very young or old animals are likely to need more water but all ages need more if the temperature or humidity rises.

Defra advises that farmers can reduce the amount of water their animals need by:

giving them less feed

drying off any animals that are in late stage lactation

ending egg production

Pig owners are advised that if water is rationed they must avoid salt poisoning.

If you can’t get enough water to your animals then you should consider transporting the animals to areas where enough water is available.

Ultimately, farmers are told that they should consider killing animals humanely rather than letting them suffer.